Reflection Lake Trail Hike, October 2013

Obviously a popular photo spot, and this is just the view from the parking lot. The views only get better, but we noticed that not many people leave this area to explore further.

A few weeks ago, we went to Reflection Lake at Mount Rainier for a hike. It was my first hike after the park reopened from the federal shutdown.

Jim had hiked in the park a few days before that. The weather was spectacular, and that part of the park had some of its first snow for the fall season.

We started the hike thinking we'd be snow-free for the trip.
We started the hike thinking we’d be snow-free for the trip.

It varied on the trail between no snow and walking into drifts that were 6-10 inches deep. Luckily, enough people had hiked it in the few days it had been reopened to have a trail of fresh footprints to follow, although I spent most of the hike inexplicably panicking that we were off the trail we wanted to be on and were going to wind up 20 or so miles from the car, lost in the snow and possibly hiking our way to Canada. So goes my crazy brain.

It looked like a Christmas card at other points.
It looked like a Christmas card at other points.

My mind goes irrational sometimes hiking. Like the hike in Oregon at Ecola State Park where I became immobile when faced with slick mud. Hiking on a cliff that was nothing but a sheer dropoff to the Pacific Ocean didn’t faze me one bit … but losing traction in mud in the middle of the forest caused a total meltdown for me. I cannot stand the feeling of losing my balance (not that I know anyone who loves that sensation), and maybe that was behind the angst I had when faced with the snow drifts on this particular trail.

For the record, signs guiding the way are few and far between (hence my freakout of being lost) but the good news is we didn’t get lost, I kept a lid on most of my worries and hiked the whole way. Looking back on the day, I can tell you now it was the most beautiful hike I have ever experienced.

One of the "smaller" alpine lakes. It's amazing how clear and still the water is at that level.
One of the “smaller” alpine lakes. It’s amazing how clear and still the water is at that level.

The other cool thing about it was the snow diverted my attention from the elevation climb, so it was a surprise for me when we came upon this:

Looking down at another alpine lake.
Looking down at another alpine lake.
I kept thinking, “When and how did we reach this elevation?”

The beauty of this hike, besides the jaw-dropping lake vistas, is that you never notice (or at least I didn’t) the elevation gain. This was not a physically hard hike.

Going down and back to the parking lot took a total of 30 minutes, which also seemed incredible, but there was no snow on that side of the trail, and we were going downhill, so time flies. I can’t wait until next year to go back, now that I know the way, and really relax and see the trail in the summer.

The Reflection Lake hike was most likely my last hike for this year. The weather will get progressively snowier in the higher elevations as the rainy season sets in. But it was a perfect finish, and gave me faith that it’s worth pushing through my fears to see the sheer beauty in the outdoors. Just as changing my diet called upon faith in believing that even I could get healthier by eating better, so goes having faith in being able to finish hikes and not have anything horrible happen. This time a year ago I couldn’t have imagined these types of trips, let alone doing this much hiking.

P.S. Still pain free and plant-based! 


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